Voters: Get ready, get set, go. If you plan to vote in the Aug. 26 primary election, it's time to do your homework about the candidates on the ballot. Just look around you for a wealth of information about the candidates and the election. In fact, thanks to the Internet, it has never been easier to be a well-informed voter.
Did you see the Know Your Candidates section in Wednesday's St. Petersburg Times? In this special section produced for Pinellas voters, the Times news department collected information on all the candidates' backgrounds, financial holdings and positions on issues and compiled it in a tab-sized section that is easy for voters to use.
Uh-oh, you missed the section and the paper has been thrown away? You can still find it, on the Times Web site at www.tampabay.com/kyc.
The section also contains a sample ballot provided by the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office, so you can see how each race will look on the ballot. Sample ballots were also mailed to Pinellas registered voters by the supervisor last week. On the supervisor's Web site, www.votepinellas.com, you can access the candidates' campaign finance reports and see who is contributing to whom and how the candidates are spending their campaign contributions.
Want even more information about the candidates before voting? You may get it in spades by going to the candidates' campaign Web sites. The addresses for those sites are listed with the candidate profiles in the Know Your Candidates section or can be found through a simple Google search.
If you want more objective information than you are likely to find on a candidate's campaign site, check the Times daily, as reporters are continuing to cover the campaigns up to primary election day. Don't forget to check the Times' two political blogs, the Buzz and Bay Buzz, for new postings about politics and the campaign every day. Reach them by going to www.blogs.tampabay.com/buzz and www.blogs.tampabay.com/baybuzz.
The Times editorial board has examined the backgrounds of the candidates running for office and conducted personal interviews with them. The board's recommendations in each race have been appearing on the opinion page of the newspaper for a week or two. If you missed them, not to worry. They are all collected for you on the Times Web site, at www.tampabay.com/opinion.
Want to see the candidates in person rather than just read about them? Candidates for Pinellas sheriff, property appraiser and the County Commission will speak at a candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Sunshine Center, 330 Fifth St. N, in St. Petersburg. Check candidates' Web sites for the possibility of other appearances before the election.
So-called early voting, which is done in person, began Monday and continues through Saturday at the three supervisor of elections offices, in Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg.
Voters who requested mail ballots can turn them in as late as 7 p.m. on election day at any of the three supervisor of elections offices. If you want to use one of the other dropoff locations listed on your mail ballot, you must turn it in by Saturday.
For everyone else, the polls open at 7 a.m. Aug. 26.
If you vote, you have a duty to cast an informed vote. With so many resources available in 2008, there is no excuse for not being educated about the candidates and issues.